The Dark Web is filled with adult content, illegal products, malicious actors, fraud, and generally unsafe stuff. I am not responsible for what you might encounter or be exposed to should you follow this guide. Be careful to keep your data safe and don’t do anything illegal.
Illegal stores, hacker forums, private data stores, marijuana trading, recipes for dangerous substances. These are all things you can find on the Dark Web in a few minutes of browsing, but a lot of it is also fairly mundane. A forum for Counter Strike players, a gun owners forum, a Pirate Bay mirror are also available. Just like the common internet (also called the clearnet), there are a lot of garbage websites, digging out sites with value just takes some knowledge.
As a cybersecurity engineer, I spend parts of my day monitoring forums where potential malicious actors sell their code for exploiting vulnerabilities, the information they got from breaking into other companies, even their entire online persona. I know my way around the more popular areas of the Dark Web but even I’m not brave enough to venture into truly shady parts. Think of Knockturn Alley compared to Diagon Alley.
How do I get there?
First, you’ll need Tor. Tor anonymizes all of your traffic by creating a giant ring. Every Dark Web site is contained within Tor and cannot be accessed from outside. Once you’re connected to the Tor network, you can browse the Dark Web to your heart’s desire.
I’ve split it up the sites by category:
Google doesn’t work on the Dark Web, so you’ll have to find a new search engine to get you around. I’ve tried a couple, but don’t have the ability to quantify whether one is better than the others. I prefer to use Fess or not Evil. Some other popular ones are Grams, Torch, and Ahima. Even more useful than search engines are Tor Directories. In the clearnet, before Google, there were sites that contained what was essentially an address book. These are far more useful in the Dark Web where a site may not be active 100% of the time to be indexed by one of the search providers. Some of these are Hidden Wiki, OnionDir, and HD Wiki.
Anonymous email is extremely useful for hackers, political informants, and defectors. Its an easy way to send untraceable email for all kinds of nefarious purposes. The most popular free email service is called Sigaint. You get 50Mb of storage, the UI looks like it was pulled out of a 90s hacker movie, and you have to fill out a captcha every time you want to perform an action. The paid ones are probably better but I haven’t played with those yet.
Pirate Bay Mirror for all of your downloading needs. If the Pirate Bay clearnet site goes down, this one is always available.
Not your every day small talk. These sites are made to talk about business, the dangerous kind. Galaxy2 is a popular social network, but you are required to create a PGP key tied to an anonymous email service to sign up. Facebook even has a mirror site in the Dark Web, for people to access where their clearnet site is blocked.
You can get lots of information from The Hub, but the most activity takes place on Jabber and IRC servers. My favorite is Volatile.
Two of the biggest sites were taken down this year, AlphaBay and SilkRoad. Dream Market is the next largest one, and has been growing as users from the shut down sites flock to it. Hydra is another one. Both sites trade in Bitcoin, have an escrow service to keep payments safe and anonymous, and are mostly free from scams.
Other Fun Stuff:
Dead Drop is one of my favorite utilities on the Dark Web. It allows you to send encrypted messages, which you sign using your PGP Key. You upload your message to the site without a recipient. The person who wants to read your message can use the public portion of your PGP key to open it.
Block Explorer allows you to attempt to trace Bitcoin transactions just like the blockchain.info site.